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28th Sep 2017

14-year-old Cork boy hit by ‘tragedy after tragedy’ took his own life

He went out to walk the family dogs and never came home.

A Cork mother has opened up about the loss of her 14-year-old son to suicide.

Fiona Mackey’s life changed forever in November of 2013 when she learned that her son John had died.

John was a happy guy, a bit of a “class clown,” she said, and was adored by his family.

“He was an only boy in the middle of three girls so he was up on a pedestal, ruined but ruined in a good way,” Fiona told The Neil Prendeville Show on Cork’s RedFM.

“He was a very good child, very protective of his three sisters. He loved fishing, he loved the dogs, he loved hunting, walking.”

The teenager showed no signs of distress in the months preceding his death but had lost a number of people close to him in a short space of time, his mother revealed.

“We in 2013 as a family had a very tough year,” she explained.

John lost his grandfather and aunt that year, while a close friend died through suicide. “We just had a year of tragedy after tragedy… but I think it took that extra toll on John.”

There was also a cluster of teenage suicides in the local area that year. Despite the tragedies, John’s family had no idea what he was going through.

While he did come home one evening smelling of alcohol, Fiona and her husband believed they had helped their son through the worst of things.

“I said to my mother, ‘the old John is back’ and then out if the blue this happened in November,” she said.

He asked to take the family dogs out walking to visit his friend’s grave one Saturday morning and never came home.

He was found close to where his friend Brian had taken his own life.

Later, during the inquest into John’s death, the coroner told Fiona that the teenager had shown no signs of struggle.

“He wanted to do this,” she said.

“She said if we had stopped him 20 times there would have been a 21st time because looking at his notes, the two letters that he left and the circumstances, he was adamant that this was what he wanted.

“In one of his letters he spoke about not wanting to cause us pain but relieving the pain that he had, so obviously he had pain in his mind, in his brain… but the exterior of own never showed that.

“I know it must have been some mental pain and because I’ve suffered from depression for years myself, I know that mental pain can take over everything – your whole body, you as a person.”

Fiona told host Neil that she cherishes the letters her son left.

“I still have them because I do at night time read them. I don’t know why but I just do – it’s the last bit of his handwriting and stuff that have.”

John’s older sister is now expecting her first baby the week of the fourth anniversary of his death in November.

“He would have been so happy to be a first-time uncle… but he’s there, he’s always here,” she said.

“Everything is John, everything I do through the day he’s there. I talk about John 24/7.”

Fiona and a number of local people have now set up Circle Of Hope, an awareness group in Ballyvolane in Cork.

“We’re trying to get people to talk to us, young people, old people, anyone,” she said.

You can find out more about the group’s work here.